AUBURN — Someone with a gun has tried to enter the DeKalb County Courthouse on two recent occasions, DeKalb County Sheriff David Cserep II told County Council members Monday.
“A couple weeks ago, we had somebody down in the cubicle with a firearm. It was very hazardous, very serious,” Cserep said. The cubicle is a bullet-resistant glass entryway with high-tech metal-scanning equipment, which began operation July 1.
In a second incident a couple of weeks earlier, officers found a gun at the bottom of a woman’s purse, and “she said she forgot she had the gun in there,” a security officer said.
As a result, Cserep is acquiring a camera to monitor the entryway, he told county officials.
He said officers do not know the identity of the man who became angry and pulled a gun from his trousers while attempting to enter the courthouse. He said police could file charges if they can identify the man.
One of the sheriff’s department’s courthouse security officers described the incidents to County Council members.
He said the man, apparently upset about being subjected to a weapons scan, began yelling at the officer through the glass. He pulled “a pretty decent size” revolver from behind him in his trousers, threw it at the glass, then picked it up and left.
Cserep described the incidents as “a couple of our wins” in the effort to keep the courthouse free of weapons.
“That answers the question we had this morning about why we’re doing a little more thorough search,” said County Council President Rick Ring. “I would agree with you that getting some type of video as to who is going through is a good idea.”
“It sounds like it’s working. I appreciate your job,” Don Grogg, chairman of the County Commissioners, told Cserep. However, Grogg added, “We’ve had a number of employees complain about this procedure.”
Acting County Auditor Susan Sleeper said she is “totally 100% OK” with having her purse checked each time she enters the courthouse.
“Invest in a clear bag. They’re only 10 bucks,” County Councilwoman Amy Demske suggested to employees.
Cserep said security officers use rubber-tipped “salad tongs” to search large purses without scratching any contents.
“A lot of times, they’re already angry, so they just dump everything out on the table,” the security officer said about some women when their purses are searched.
Cserep said from his observations at the scanning cubicle, “Most of the public that I know of are moving through without encumbrance.”
In addition to weapons, members of the public are prohibited from carrying cellphones into the courthouse.
“We want to make it as routine as we can, every day, coming in,” the sheriff said. However, he added, “We adjust our security posture based on the situation we’re put in.”
The sheriff then turned to a presentation by jail maintenance chief Jeff Bickel, who reported that concrete blocks above inmates’ sleeping areas have fallen or are about to fall, creating a safety threat. Work on those problems is scheduled for Saturday, he said. Another block fell and landed next to a toilet.
Bickel said he believes the problems are caused by the age of the jail, built in the mid-1980s.
“The building is still settling,” he said.
Restrooms in the jail lobby remain closed to the public, he said. Plumbing repairs have been completed, but floor tiles need to be repaired because they pose a tripping hazard.
Cserep said the jail was holding 119 inmates Monday. In 2016, County Commissioners authorized former Sheriff Don Lauer to cap the inmate population at 80 for safety reasons and house excess prisoners in the jails of surrounding counties.
Cserep said his department is responsible for a total of 146 inmates, counting those housed elsewhere.
“This problem is not going away,” Cserep said about the jail’s condition and overcrowding.